Archive | 2011

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2011 In Review: What The Top Ten Grossers Say About The State of Cinema

Posted on 24 December 2011 by William Gatevackes

If we had to guess what the highest grossing films of 2011 would be back in January, I’d think we’d be able to get the list about 80% right. We might have substituted Green Lantern for Fast Five, maybe Kung Fu Panda 2 for Rise of the Planet of the Apes, but we could probably guess the rest.
Which isn’t to say that the list isn’t surprising. This year’s list of top grossing films tells us something surprising about the state of the cinema today and where it will go in the future. All we have to do is look at the connections.

Numbers accurate as of 10:30 pm, December 15th.

  1. The entire list tells us that foreign grosses are very important these days: Overseas grosses were once icing on the cake. A nice addition, but not quite as important as domestic grosses. Not anymore. Each of the Top Ten films have grossed more internationally than they did domestically (sometimes two or three times more). Each and every film had their production budget covered by their foreign grosses (Transformers: Dark of the Moonmade it’s $195 million budget back from Foreign grosses in its first weekend–and then some!). The foreign market can now make or break a film. This is why most producers of blockbusters create these films with an eye on how they would do overseas.
  2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 and The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 show that the literary blockbuster is going out with a bang–maybe: The Harry Potter and Twilight franchises are on opposite poles when it comes to quality, both in book form and on the screen. But both have rabid fanbases that guaranteed that every film in the line would sell gangbusters. But, unfortunately for Warner Brothers and Summitt Entertainment, this year marks the end of the Harry Potter franchise and the penultimate installment of the Twilight one. It is unlikely that any literary adaptations, even the eagerly awaited The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Hunger Games adaptations in the pipeline, will match the success of these two. It’s an end of an era.
  3. The Hangover Part II shows that originality might officially be dead: Some of you might say that the whole list tells you this. After all, the two movies that aren’t sequels are comic book adaptations and the highest grossing “original” film, Bridesmaids, could only reach as high as #12. But  The Hangover Part II takes lack of originality to a new level. It was essentially the same film as The Hangover. It had the same premise, the same plot points, and the same ending. Well, not exactly the same. Ed Helms has a facial tattoo instead of a missing tooth and they have to take a Buddhist monk back to his home instead of a baby, but the films were essentially the same. I have nothing against sequels that continue a story. But to simply rehash the same formula, note for note, shows how far the sequel has fallen. And the fact that it was such a success means that we might see more of these carbon copy sequels in the future.
  4. Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger prove that the comic book film, at least ones from Marvel, isn’t dead…yet: Granted, both films grossed less than Iron Man did in his first go around, but each film–with foreign grosses added–were able to make a sizable profit, enough to warrant sequels for both. Both were fairly well reviewed. We might have to hold off a final judgement until we see how The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises and The Man of Steel do before we can definitively prove the genre healthy, but it certainly ain’t dead yet.
  5. Transformers: Dark of the Moon, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, The Hangover Part II, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, and Cars 2 prove that a film doesn’t have to be good to be successful: The above five films have an average Fresh rating of 34% over at Rotten, the review aggragate site. The site considers 60% or above to be a good film, just to put in perspective how poorly reviewed these films really are. So if you’re the type of person who hates that Hollywood keeps putting out crap year in and year out, well, don’t hate Hollywood. Hate your friends and neighbors who see sparkly vampires and robots beating the grease out of one another again and again.
  6. Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a sign that reboots can work, so expect to see more of them: 2001’s Planet of the Apes was supposed to be the film to reboot the franchise. And while it did make a profit, the was critically panned. The reboot was deemed a failure. However, the trend in Hollywood today is that if at first a reboot does not succeed, reboot again. This time around, reviews were better and the money was still there, so it appears that the second time was a charm. Don’t think Hollywood didn’t notice, and be on the look out for more reboots and reboots of reboots in the future.
  7. Fast Five says that there is an alternative to reboots–going back to basics: 2006’s The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift was supposed to be a new direction for the franchise, if not a complete reboot. It grossed the least amount of an F&F film, and the franchise appeared to be dead. 2009’s Fast & Furious reunited the principals from the first film and revitalized the franchise, and this fifth installment was the highest grossing yet. There are plans for a Fast Six and a Fast Seven to be shot back to back. So, in some cases, the best reboot is no reboot at all.
  8. Cars 2 shows a chink in the Pixar armor: The film was the lowest domestic grossing Pixar film since 1998’s A Bug’s Life. And it was the poorest reviewed Pixar film of all time. For other studios and genres, this would not be that much of a problem. However, Pixar has set the standard in CGI animation in both quality and popularity. It has come out with dead solid perfect films each and every time until now. So the performance of this film, more from a reviews standpoint than an earnings one, IS a cause for concern. This makes next year’s Brave, with its rather pedestrian sword and sorcery plot that wouldn’t normally be a question of how Pixar would execute it, a more dicey proposition, one that could decided where this year was a blip on the radar or the start of a decline.

Chart courtesy of


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New Releases: December 23

Posted on 22 December 2011 by William Gatevackes

1. We Bought A Zoo (Fox, 3,117 Theaters, 124 Minutes, Rated PG): This film is an odd addition to the resumes of Cameron Crowe and Matt Damon. Crowe is the guy whose writing made Phoebe Cates coming out of the pool possible and Damon is most known for kicking bad guys in the face in the Bourne films.  Having them come together on a family friendly film based on a true story? That’s about as awkward as the photoshopping job on that poster to the left.

Damon stars as Benjamin Mee, whose decision to buy a zoo causes much changes in his family.


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CITIZEN KANE Oscar Earns Over $800K At Auction

Posted on 21 December 2011 by Rich Drees

Unlike the previous time it was up for auction, Orson Welles’ Academy Award for co-authoring the screenplay to Citizen Kane not only met but exceed its reserve price and ultimately went under the gavel for $861,542.

Although magician David Cooperfield was one of the bidders, the final purchaser chose to remain anonymous.

“This is a testament to the popularity of Orson Welles and his magnum opus Citizen Kane,” auction house owner Nate D. Sanders told the Hollywood Reporter.

Thought lost for decades, Welles’s Oscar was revealed to be in the possession of cinematographer Gary Graver, who stated that the director had given him the statue as payment for working on Welles’s unfinished 1974 film The Other Side Of The Wind. Graver tried to auction the Oscar through Sotheby’s, but was sued by Welles’ daughter Beatrice Welles, who was eventually awarded ownership of the Academy Award by a California court.

Beatrice Welles put the Oscar up for auction herself, but was sued by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences. The Academy had enacted a stipulation that the Oscar statues could not be resold without first offering to sell them back to the Academy for the nominal sum of $1.00. However, a California court ruled that as this rule was enacted in 1950, the Citizen Kane Oscar was not covered by the policy. The auction went ahead in 2003, with the Oscar being acquired by the Dax Foundation, who has decided to resale the statue and use the proceeds to help fund the non-profit organization’s charitable works. However, the statue failed to move at the 2007 auction and it appears that the Dax Foundation has sold the Oscar privately to an anonymous purchaser who had put the statue up for auction this week.

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Bruce Campbell Confirms OZ: GREAT AND POWERFUL Cameo

Posted on 21 December 2011 by Rich Drees

It just doesn’t quite feel like a Sam Raimi-directed film without some sort of cameo from his good friend and Evil Dead series collaborator Bruce Campbell, and when Campbell tweeted last month that he wasn’t going to make an appearance in Raimi’s upcoming Oz: The Great And Powerful, fans were a bit disappointed.

Well, it’s time to turn that frown upside down as the actor has told The Shiznet that he will be in the film after all!

The scene that I shot was a page [of the script] and it took all day. It was great to see the scope of Oz and to see the detail, and the craftsmanship and the professionalism and the incredible stuff that they’re doing visually in every other way.

As always, Campbell plays coy about the nature of his cameo, saying only –

I play a pivotal role. It involves me and Oz – that’s James Franco – and let’s just say that we have a confrontation. It was a very fun role to do actually.

Keep in my that Campbell has jokingly inflated the importance of his roles in Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy in the past, going so far as to say that he has been the only actor to ever defeat Spider-Man.

My guess would be that Campbell is probably playing a fellow carnival worker of Franco’s future Wizard of Oz, back in the days before he journeyed from Kansas to that magical land over the rainbow.

We’ll find out when Oz: The Great And Powerful opens on March 8, 2013.

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The First HOBBIT Trailer Reveals Much

Posted on 21 December 2011 by Rich Drees

It was ten years ago this week that director Petr Jackson first transported movie audiences to J R R Tolkien’s Middle-Earth with the premier of The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring. It seems only right that last night gave us the first trailer for Jackson’s adaption of of Tolkien’s first novel of Middle-Earth, The Hobbit.

And what a first look it is. Some of it is familiar as we have seen some of these sights in the Lord Of The Rings films. And the trailer does a good job introducing us to the 12 dwarves whom the titular Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) will accompany on a great adventure to free a treasure from the clutches of a dragon.

But also gives us glimpses at some of the material that Jackson developed that serve to connect The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings including the latter films’ older Bilbo (Ian Holmes) and his nephew Frodo (Elijah Woods). We also see glimpses of a meeting between Gandalf and Lord Of The Rings‘s Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), just one of the things that Jackson developed from material found in the appendices of Lord Of The Rings.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey premiers December 14, 2012.

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New Releases: December 21

Posted on 20 December 2011 by William Gatevackes

1. The Adventures Of Tintin (Paramount, @3,000 Theaters, 107 Minutes, Rated PG): I believe the main battle for box office supremacy for this Holiday week will be fought between this film and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. If this is true, then Daniel Craig is a very smart man because his has roles in each.

I really don’t know which way this film will go. The character is immensely popular overseas, where it has been published near continuously in Belgium from 1929 until today. But while Tintin has had animated TV series that aired in the US, it is nowhere near as popular.

However, you can’t argue with the talent involved in this production. I have gone to numerous films just because Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson, Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost were involved all by their lonesome. Having them all take part in the same film is a no-brainer. And, from what I’ve seen of it, the stop-motion animation is the closest thing I have seen to a comic strip come to life. If I had money to place on who will win at the box office, my money would be here.

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Producers Want Daniel Craig To Play Bond For At Least Five More Films

Posted on 20 December 2011 by Rich Drees

Things must be going well with the currently in production next James Bond adventure Skyfall. In a recent interview, producer Michael G. Wilson mentioned that he would be very much in favor of having franchise star Daniel Craig stick around for another five movies to be the longest-running actor to head up the franchise.

As he told The People

Filming has gone very well so far and I’d love Daniel to surpass [former series lead] Roger [Moore]’s record and do eight pictures. Daniel’s been an absolute pleasure to be around because he takes the role so seriously. There’s really no one more passionate about making these films work than him – he’s a film maker’s dream.

Given Craig’s popularity in the role with both the public and critics, it is understandable that Wilson would like to see the actor stay with the franchise for as long as possible. And to his credit, Craig has indicated that he would like to stay on the franchise as long as he was physically able to play the role and that there continued to be interesting things for him to do as an actor with the character.

Personally, as long as things remain roughly on the level of Casino Royale, I don’t think we’ll have any problems with scripts that don’t service the Bond character rather than just have him moving through another generic adventure.

But Craig is currently 43 years old and even with a schedule of a new film every other year that would put him in his mid-50s by the time he got to do his 8th Bond adventure. I suppose an interesting film could be made with an aging Bond trying to deal with the fact that he is an older man in what should be a young man’s game, but does anyone want to see the superspy wrestle with a mid-life crisis?

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X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE Uploader Gets Year In Prison

Posted on 20 December 2011 by Rich Drees

Gilberto Sanchez has been sentenced to one year in federal prison after admitting to having uploaded an unfinished, workprint copy of the film X-Men Origins: Wolverine a month before its May 2009 release. The sentence was handed down yesterday with sentencing judge Margaret M. Morrow describing the offense as “extremely serious.” Additionally, Judge Morrow imposed one year of supervised release and numerous computer restrictions.

Sanchez uploaded the film in late March 2009 and it quickly spread across the internet. In a sentencing memorandum prosecutors made the argument that this lead to “millions of infringements” and that Sanchez “has a prior conviction for a similar offense, he had been regularly uploading pirated movies for four or five years, and did not appear remorseful after charges were brought.”

Interestingly, X-Men Origins: Wolverine still managed to make over $85 million its opening weekend at the box office and would go on to ultimately earn $373 million worldwide. (Source – Box Office Mojo) Even after the poor reviews that the film got (37% on Rotten Tomatoes), that’s still an impressive take. Some have used that figure as proof that the leak of the film did not harm its box office but may have actually helped it.

In the same press release that quoted Judge Morro, United States Attorney André Birotte Jr.  is sited as stating“The Justice Department will pursue and prosecute persons who seek to steal the intellectual property of this nation.”

Except that they haven’t, have they?

Although Sanchez stated that he bought the film from a Korean sidewalk vendor in Brooklyn, I have never seen if Twentieth Century Fox, the Justice Department or  eventhe FBI ever investigated this claim. At the time of the leak, it was speculated that only a high-ranking studio executive could have had the film in the first place, so the leak would have originated there.

This absence of follow up is what I have found most troubling about the case. I’m not one for tinfoil chapeaus but the lack of any public acknowledgement of an investigation that went further than Sanchez can only be read in three ways – 1) Incompetence, 2)Lack of interest in finding the real culprit once a scapegoat in the form of Sanchez had been discovered, or 3) A cover-up to protect whomever leaked the film, accidentally or on purpose, in the first place.

None of these conclusions ease the mind and to me indicate that Fox was more interested in sending a message to people that they will prosecute anyone who uploads a film to the internet.  But if they, or any other studio, is really committed to stopping this sort of thing, they will need to stop treating the minor symptoms and go after the main disease. Or are they afraid what that may reveal about themselves?

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Thirty-Nine Tunes Eligible For Best Original Song Oscar

Posted on 20 December 2011 by Rich Drees

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced that 39 compositions have met the qualifications to be eligible to be nominated for the Best Original Song Academy Award this year. To be eligible, the song must have both its lyrics and music written specifically for the film and be substantively used in the film.

The next step for these songs will be a review on January 5 where voting members of the music branch will listen to each song and cast votes for their choices for nominees. An averaged point system will determine who the winning nominees are. A maximum of two songs from any single movie can be nominated. The Oscar nominations will be announced on January 24.

The complete list of eligible films is as follows-

  • “The World I Knew” from African Cats
  • “Lay Your Head Down” from Albert Nobbs
  • “Star Spangled Man” from Captain America: The First Avenger
  • “Collision of Worlds” from Cars 2
  • “Dakkanaga Dugu Dugu” from DAM999
  • “DAM999 Theme Song” from DAM999
  • “Mujhe Chod Ke” from DAM999
  • “Rainbird” from Dirty Girl
  • “Keep On Walking” from The First Grader
  • “Where the River Goes” from Footloose
  • “Hello Hello” from Gnomeo & Juliet
  • “Love Builds a Garden” from Gnomeo & Juliet
  • “Bridge of Light” from Happy Feet Two
  • “The Mighty Sven” from Happy Feet Two
  • “Never Be Daunted” from happythankyoumoreplease
  • “Hell and Back” from Hell And Back Again
  • “The Living Proof” from The Help
  • “Coeur Volant” from Hugo
  • “It’s How We Play” from I Don’t Know How She Does It
  • “When the Heart Dies” from In The Land Of Blood And Honey
  • “Ja Nao Estar” from José And Pilar
  • “The Keeper” from Machine Gun Preacher
  • “Life’s a Happy Song” from The Muppets
  • “Man or Muppet” from The Muppets
  • “Pictures in My Head” from The Muppets
  • “Summer Song” from The Music Never Stopped
  • “Imaginary Friends” from Olive
  • “Sparkling Day” from One Day
  • “Taking You with Me” from Our Idiot Brother
  • “The Greatest Song I Ever Heard” from POM Wonderful Presents The Greatest Movie Ever Sold
  • “Hot Wings” from Rio
  • “Let Me Take You to Rio” from Rio
  • “Real in Rio” from Rio
  • “Shelter” from Take Shelter
  • “Gathering Stories” from We Bought A Zoo
  • “Pop” from White Irish Drinkers
  • “Think You Can Wait” from Win Win
  • “The Backson Song” from Winnie The Pooh
  • “So Long” from Winnie The Pooh

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Posted on 20 December 2011 by Rich Drees

The general rule of thumb is that sequels aren’t always as good as their predecessor. But I have to admit that the trailer for Wrath Of The Titans could indeed one-up the film it is a follow up to, 2009’s Clash Of The Titans. But then again, Clash was a pretty horrible piece of cinematic crap, so it wouldn’t be too hard to do better.

Sam Worthington is back as Perseus, whose life is torn between his human and godly heritages. Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Danny Huston, Edgar Ramirez Rosamund Pike and Bill Nighy round out the cast, though you won’t glimpse them all here.

Wrath Of The Titans hits theaters on March 30.

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